By SALLY GELLERT
Nine years ago, I was active here in Bergen County making sure Superstorm Sandy survivors were able to access assistance and rebuild. And for years I have been active for a full and fair Superstorm Sandy. It is not news that our state needs major funds and investment to better prepare our families, homes, and infrastructure for future storms—but it was devastating to watch Ida pummel our state again as we are on the cusp of moving the kinds of resources that will help us better prepare and care for our communities but that my Congressman has been standing in the way. I am a person of faith – I am a member of Central Unitarian Church of Bergen County. My faith tradition tells us – there is enough for all of us.
The last 18 months have devastated families and businesses (especially small businesses), and the time for the government to reach out to help is now. We need to “build back better”, to ensure that resources are available to those harmed by the pandemic or recovering from Tropical Storm Ida—or, in the West, from cataclysmic wildfires. The reconciliation bill now being finalized gives us an opportunity to invest in our future, to address issues of climate change, wealth and income inequality, and set a course for a renewed, reinvigorated society.
Parents need child care; expanding the Child Tax Credit will cut child poverty in half and ensure that the next generation gets off to a good start. We also need to reform our tax code more generally: we have been overly generous to corporations, with a large number of tax cuts; many of the largest corporations pay little or no taxes, even as they use society’s common resources to enrich their executives and shareholders. Some pay good wages and benefits; others, as exemplified by Amazon’s illegal strike-breaking-type actions at Bessemer (reportedly duplicated in New York) are more exploitive. It is imperative that we turn this around and ensure that corporations pay their fair share of the costs of a society in which we all have opportunity and from which the largest of them have benefited so dramatically during this pandemic. Meanwhile, too many small, local businesses have struggled simply to stay open.
The pandemic has shown us the critical importance of access to health care, both preventative and during an illness. Expanding Medicare and Medicaid—and most critically, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices—is crucial. New Jersey is a pharmaceutical state—but our residents employed by drug companies also need affordable medications, have elderly relatives on Medicare, and affordable medications that allow corporations a fair (but not exorbitant) return, helps us all.
We need major infrastructure investments to prepare our homes, businesses, and communities for flooding and extreme weather. Every $1 we invest in mitigation saves $6 in disaster recovery, and there’s no price tag we can put on the pain and heartache we save.
I’m calling on my Congressman, Josh Gottheimer, to support a reconciliation plan – American families are worth $3.5 trillion.
Each of these issues is important—we must address all our needs, we cannot be in competition. Don’t pit us against each other when we need each other most in service of corporate polluters and fossil fuel industries. Rather than bring us together – status quo politicians want to point fingers, assign blame, and turn us against each other because of our skin color or zip code. When corporations pay their fair share, we can make the historic investments New Jersey needs. There’s no backing down on our future. We need a full Build Back Better plan NOW.